The day before things really kick of for music in Austin, year on year, SXSW Music’s Tuesday night has gotten busier and busier. This year, it was pretty much a full schedule.
With roughly half the venues boasting official showcases and a bunch of big names already getting into the grip of things, as we walked into central Austin, already UK heavyweights Kasabian were on stage at Stubb’s.
Not needing to catch them live again to know they’re a lot of fuss about nothing, we passed on Kasabian and headed to Headhunters for our first taste of SXSW 2012.
First up was Follow That Bird, a girl-boy-girl three-piece with a lo-fi reverb-heavy sound not too dissimilar to Yuck. The band have a lot of potential although lack a killer single and some definition amid the noise. That could have had something to do with it taking their whole set to get the sound right, but such is the problem for bands at SXSW.
Bitches were next, a punk duo from the UK and pretty much the exact middle ground between Lightning Bolt and Sleigh Bells. Only a bass and drums, they use a number of effects to make the guitar sound just like an electric, packing numerous short and sweet songs into their performance. They’ll find a fanbase, no doubt, although I was more interested by a captivating episode of Ninja Warrior on the bar’s TV.
Two bands down you would be forgiven for presuming this opening night would be end disappointing but the three trump cards were up next. We had already fallen in love with Beach Fossils last SXSW so couldn’t miss them as they returned to Austin with new material off their upcoming LP. Playing at 606, the summery, surf-influenced indie pop Brooklynites are sure to blow up over the next 12 months, starting 10 minutes early so they could pack in as many songs as possible, they put on an amazing, high energy show, dancing about on stage as if it wasn’t swelteringly hot inside the venue.
Cutting out the minute they walked off stage, we hot-footed over to the appropriately named Hype Hotel for one of hottest bands of late. Though they haven’t made a name for themselves outside of the States just yet, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. were billed as one of the must-see acts at this year’s festival. Like a more poppy Local Natives, still with all their rhythm and similarly led by percussion, Earnhardt though lack edge, and despite a few good tracks, were disappointing. The night’s headliner’s though, were anything but.
Effectively a week long party for new self-titled album, Delta Spirit were perhaps unsurprisingly the highlight of our opening day, and if any other bands at this year’s SXSW is able to top them, it’ll be something of a surprise. Mixing it up with tracks off their debut, sophomore and third LPs, the Cali-turned-Brooklyn five-piece were clearly thrilled at the heaving crowd who sang back almost every word. An exuberant, full throttle and passionate performance, their set was one of the best we’ve ever seen at the Austin festival, and a how-to of modern indie/folk-influence rock.
Roll on the rest of the week.